July 2011

How To Beat College

Hints and cheats for the world's most expensive game

For all it's worked up to be, college is little more than an elaborate gaming experience. It's something you win at in order to impress people. A college diploma is really just a lofty badge or achievement; it shows off your cred and makes people respect you. It's proof that you've worked very hard at things that don't actually matter. As someone who's beaten the college levels and now finds herself in the heat of the sequel, I thought I'd share some of the tricks that helped me get this far. Over the years I’ve transformed myself into a level 80 rogue armed to the teeth with powers of BS. I've quested my way up the leaderboards and I fought through to the finish. It took a little luck and a lot of patience, but I done made it. Here's the walkthrough to my success.

Pick a major in the humanities

No bio, no chem, no math. Nothing where your academic achievements can be measured quantitatively. Even social science cuts it close. The crux of winning at college is convincing people you know much more than you do. When it comes to science, you either know a fact or you don't. You're graded on your actual skill level within the discipline, and that is bad. Unless, of course, you have ambitions like becoming a doctor or programming the next big tech obsession. By all means go pre-med if you're into saving people from dying, but take note that you are no longer playing the game of college--you have instead begun to play its lesser-rated (but secretly better) sequel, Real Life.

Limit your reading to the first and last chapters of every assignment

Get the setup down, learn how it all ends, and you can fill in the rest from there. This works best with fiction but should be a good base formula for whatever your professors throw at you. If articles are assigned instead of books, replace chapters with pages.

Style can stand in for logic

The art of essay-writing is not unlike the art of stage magic. It's all flash and diversion, glitter and spectacle. If your argument sounds intelligent and complex, chances are your grader will believe that it is. Pepper your paragraphs with words of the day. Vary your sentence structure. Embrace the craft of building stage sets: it doesn't have to stand up like a 19th century country house, it just has to resemble the interior of one. With enough tightly constructed and impressively dense prose, you can say just about anything in a paper and people will eat it right up.

Higher Education Corporations Are National Parasites

...and neither the federal government or the public seems inclined to do much about it.


In June the Obama administration rolled out, in connection with Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan, a new set of rules that for-profit colleges must abide by in order to retain federally subsidized loan dollars for prospective students. These rules, while not as stringent as some had hoped for, do impose a tighter control on how for-profit colleges operate. In addition, the schools have 3 years to come in-line with the new regulations before the federal dollars will be pulled. According to Secretary Duncan, "We want to give people a chance to reform...this was not about 'gotcha'." This is all despite a historic lobbying campaign by for-profit colleges in watering down new regulations, or doing away with them entirely. It seems to have worked somewhat, critics say, since these for-profit colleges essentially have free reign to continue has they have before that 3-year deadline.